Following its loss to No. 11 Columbia on Monday, Cal men’s tennis improved its record to 8-3 after defeating the SMU Mustangs 5-2 on Wednesday.
For the eighth time this season, the Bears won the doubles point, taking a 1-0 lead against the Mustangs. Cal’s Ryder Jackson and Lucas Magnaudet, who are currently ranked 54th in doubles, started the Bears’ doubles victory with a 6-2 win over SMU’s Kyle Sillman and Jack Winkler. The clinch came from Philip Hjorth and Yuta Kikuchi, who won 7-5 over Pranav Kumar and Antonio Muniz-Hildalgo.
The Bears then found themselves up a set on five of the six courts on singles — the exact same position they were in when they faced the Lions on Monday. The question was whether the blue and gold could carry through the momentum from the first half of the game, or lose focus as they did last time.
They carried through.
Cal’s Derrick Chen gave the Bears a 2-0 lead after defeating Kumar in straight sets. Jackson followed suit, winning Cal’s third point in another straight set win over SMU’s Liam Krall. Cal’s Siddhant Banthia clinched the victory for the Bears on court five after that, putting Cal at 4-0 for the game, and 8-3 in their overall record.
Following their win over the Mustangs, the Bears continued their winning streak against ASU with a score of 4-2 on Friday.
The Bears opened their game against the Sun Devils by once again earning the doubles point. Head coach Kris Kwinta said that doubles have been one of the team’s strongest aspects.
“These guys have the energy and belief that they can beat anybody in doubles,” Kwinta said. “The guys have amazing energy, they come out, they protect their house with energy with smart plays. They’re very coachable.”
In singles, the Sun Devils managed to even the Bears’ momentum, with the two teams equally splitting first sets across six courts. Hjorth earned the Bears their first singles point, defeating ASU’s Spencer Brachman and bringing the score to 2-0, only giving up one game across two sets. However, Cal’s No. 1, Yuta Kikuchi, fell to ASU’s Murphy Cassone in the second set, bringing the score to 2-1.
Bears’ Jackson and Carl Emil Overbeck both won their matches in three sets, with Overbeck clinching the game for the Bears against ASU’s Constantinos Koshis.
“In the past three matches I’ve played, I’ve had (a) set point in the first set. It was pretty tough mentally to lose the first set point,” Overbeck said. “But I tried to stay composed and stick to my game plan, and it worked out in the end which I’m really happy about.”
Overbeck added that he was particularly thankful for Banthia’s friends who were in the stands cheering for the Bears, and were a “huge help.”
The Bears were originally slated to play against No. 15 Arizona on Sunday, but the match was pushed up to Saturday to avoid the rain. While the Wildcats were coming off of a 4-3 loss against Stanford on Friday, the Bears were carrying the momentum of their win against the Sun Devils. Both teams only had less than a day to rest.
But despite its momentum, Cal fell short against Arizona in a close 4-3 matchup.
For just the second time this season, the Bears lost the doubles point. The doubles match on the first court went to Jay Friend and Jonas Ziverts of Arizona, who defeated Cal’s Banthia and Overbeck 6-2. On court two, Bears’ Jackson and Magnaudet defeated Arizona’s Herman Hoeyeraal and Gustaf Strom 6-4, leaving court three to be the deciding match. Cal’s Kikuchi and Hjorth were unable to clinch the win, falling to Arizona’s Nick Lagaev and Colton Smith to give Arizona the 1-0 lead.
“We were not aggressive enough, we were not loud enough, we were not assertive the way we usually do it,” Kwinta said. “We were a little intimidated in the beginning.”
The Bears began to claw their way back during singles. Hjorth, despite coming off a loss in doubles, earned Cal’s first point. Overbeck also won his singles matchup against Arizona’s Hoeyeraal. Kikuchi gave Cal its third point with his defeat of Smith in a nail-biting tiebreaker in the third set.
Finally, it came down to Banthia against Arizona’s Lagaev on court five, with Lagaev clinching the Wildcats’ victory in another all-too-close third set.
“As a coach, you can’t be prouder of a group fighting like that. They just take the gloves off and go for it,” Kwinta said. “Sometimes you win, sometimes you lose.”
With its loss against the Wildcats, Cal now has a record of 9-4, splitting its only two conference matches so far. Cal now sits at No. 33, and will face No. 44 Pepperdine on Saturday.